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The Future of Self-Driving Trucks

self driving truck

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Everyone who isn’t living under a rock has heard of self-driving cars. On any other day, you can hear or read about a car manufacturer somewhere testing their prototype. But have you heard of self-driving trucks? No need to scratch your head; very few have. Trucks are not as much a part of popular imagination as cars are. But the fact is that you may see driverless trucks on our roads even sooner than driverless cars.

There are two main reasons for this: technology and economics.

Technology is hastening the era of self-driving trucks

As of now, available technology is in favor of self-driving trucks. The reason is not hard to understand. Trucks mostly run on highways, where there are fewer obstacles. Long-haul drivers often find themselves driving for miles and miles in a near straight line. In contrast, city streets are a jumble of cars, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians maneuvering their way on and around intersections, crosswalks, traffic cones, potholes and other obstacles. This means that it’s easier to build and program driverless trucks than driverless cars.

The signs are already there. The driverless cars that are being tested in the streets still need a driver behind the wheel to ensure that they won’t hit other cars and pedestrians. In July 2016, a driver died in an accident when using the autopilot feature of a Tesla Model S car. Two months later, a Google driverless car was involved in a collision with a commercial van. The point is that driverless cars still have a long way to go before they can be completely safe for city driving.

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As mentioned earlier, highway driving is a lot simpler. There are already self-driving cars that can maneuver their way on highways with relative ease. Tesla’s autopilot feature, for example, comes with the ability to merge on or off highways, detect another car that is entering its lane, and handle other obstacles that are usually found on highways.

Tesla is planning to put a fully driverless vehicle on the road by 2018. But it is not the only one car builder that has been working hard to build driverless vehicles. Other car manufacturers like Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Toyota and Otto and even technology companies like Google, Apple and Uber are also in the race.

Most cars today come with semi-autonomous features that make highway driving effortless, such as the Cruise Control and Pilot Assist features of the Volvo XC90 model, which can take over from the driver and drive itself even on traffic-heavy highways. However, they are still not fully ready for the frantic and crowded environments of cities.

Considering the relative ease with which vehicles can be driven on the highways, it won’t be long before driverless trucks become a common sight on our highways.

Economy is driving the demand for driverless trucks

The economic reason is as compelling as the technical reason, if not more. According to a report published by The Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings, trucks and delivery vehicles are poised to see a rapid adoption of self-driving vehicles because e-commerce is booming. Buyers are increasingly ordering goods and foods online with the promise of same-day delivery, which has come as a boon for the trucking industry.

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Trucking companies are already pouring money into autonomous technologies to make their trucks safer and to make their delivery systems faster and more efficient. The next step for them is to cut costs by investing in trucks that will drive themselves, without anyone behind the wheel. The trucking industry itself is likely to be the driving force behind the development of driverless trucks.

To meet the potential demand, Otto and Daimler are working to put fully self-driving truck on the road by 2020. Daimler made history in October 2015 when its semi-autonomous truck drove on an open highway with traffic, marking the first time a big-rig drove semi-autonomously on a highway. At the rate things are happening, it won’t be long before fully driving trucks are a regular presence on our highways.

The only problem is that truck drivers are not so enthusiastic about self-driving trucks. It is easy to understand their fears. However, history shows us that every new technology creates new job opportunities. As the trucking industry adopts fully driverless trucks, there be new roles for the truck drivers.

Driverless trucks are subject to the same highways regulation as traditional trucks. If you are injured by one, call reputable truck accident attorneys to explore your legal options.

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